Some first impressions after watching the Predators skate in three preseason games:
The talent in camp is the best in the history of the organization. This speaks well to the the scouting and development of the players that the Predators have drafted. The younger players now have enough talent to push the veterans, and this is elevating the play of everyone.
To that point, one of the best hires the Predators have made is Martin Gelinas. Marty enjoyed success on the ice and was a consummate professional during his playing days. He is a great person. His experience and ability to relate to the young players in the Predators system will pay dividends for both the players and the organization.
Jonas Anderson is fast. Matthew Lombardi is REALLY fast.
Taylor Beck will be back at the NHL level. He has to physically mature as well as let his total game develop. He has great awareness on the ice and a strong presence in the offensive zone, and dang, that kid could stick handle in a phone booth. Absolutely super hands.
Is Ryan Ellis ready for the NHL? There is no doubt that he skates and handles the puck well and has an incredible hockey sense. Even though he plays very good positional hockey in the defensive zone, his smallish frame gets pushed around by larger forwards. The dilemma for the Predators is that if sent down, he goes back to juniors instead of Milwaukee at the AHL level because of his age. My impression is that he needs at least one season in Milwaukee competing against larger, soon to be NHL'ers. I would expect Ellis to be sent down to his junior team.
Speaking of defensemen:
Jonathan Blum is a smooth skater, but failed to impress in other aspects of his game.
Ryan Parent has been solid. He moves the puck well and has been strong in the defensive zone. I expect him to be on the opening night roster paired at the third pairing with Cody Franson.
Aaron Johnson looks to have a good chance to make the roster as the seventh defenseman
I watched Anders Lindback in development camp, and he moved well for a big goalie, but had a weak glove hand and looked like he needed a lot of work. His game action in the pre-season was strong. He looked composed, read plays well, and continued to impress with his movement in the crease. That being said, I expect Lindback to go to Milwaukee where he will get more playing time and Mark Dekanich to remain in Nashville as Pekka Rinne's back-up.
Rinne has been somewhat of a slow starter in his pro career, but he has looked in mid-season form in his game action. He has made some great stops and looks poised and relaxed. The Predators will need a good start from Peks to stay in the hunt in what will be a highly competitive Central Division race.
The Central Division will again be, in my estimation, the toughest division in the NHL. The competition in training camp will serve the Predators well as they prepare for a grueling divisional race.
My first impression is that the Predators will do well.